10 Jan Why a cheetah doesn’t need to warm-up| Paul Walker

My first ever post using just my phone, expect more than the average miss-spellings. Apologies in advance.

A concept that keeps popping up to me recently is one put forward by Dr Bruce Ames which has been coined ‘Triage theory’ in relation to diet and micro-nutrients. This has actually been around since 2006 but seems to be coming to the fore as more and more research appears to confirm the almost too-obvious-to-be-true theory. A brief googling will bring up hundreds of articles on the topic, but my brief over-simplification is that whenever your body senses a deficiency in a particular micro-nutrient it will prioritise short-term acute functions of said nutrient over longer term functions.

The most researched at the moment seems to be vitamin K. An acute, short-term and thus vital for survival function being it’s role in blood clotting. If you lose the ability to clot your blood any small laceration could prove fatal very quickly. Thus prioritising this function in your body will initially keep you alive for longer.

Longer term functions of vitamin K seem to include building proteins related to bones, heart and cancer prevention. These diseases taking much longer to develop and thus much longer to end our existence means the body pulls the K away from these functions to fulfil the more immediate requirements of survival, but leading to more long term issues.

So simple, so obvious, yet so genius.

Now normally, this is the part of the blog post where I’d peel off and try and draw some elaborate metaphor between what I’ve just been talking about and how it applies to training, but this actually applies directly. Even if you’re one of those people who “gets away with” eating a rubbish, low nutrition diet (interesting how we someone with abs who eats MacDonalds “gets away with it”, to be discussed in a future blog) you’re not actually getting away with it, being lean is not the be all and end all of nutrition and the deficits you are building now will catch up with you.

Takeaway – focus on a nutrient dense diet from a young age and forever

A biomechanical triage theory

Even though I said I wasn’t going to draw a comparison, I think I still will.

If you’re a long jumper, or a sprinter or a long distance runner, your body is going to find a way to get you through the event that you’re trying to do now. That’s prioritising the acute event. Think caveman running away from a t-Rex (I know there’s a chronological inconsistency in the example but it’s a great visual), running at that instant serves the biological imperative of prolonging your life to reproduce.

This might be despite the fact that you have a tightness in tibialis posterior, which blocks some ankle dorsi-flexion and affects the pronation of the foot. You will still be able to get through each training session (or away from the t-Rex), but over time this tightness will affect the loading on the other tissues of your lower leg. You have fewer movement options causing an overload of specific tissues leading to, more than likely a tendon overuse injury or stress fracture.

The body has sacrificed your long term health in order to achieve a short-term survival.

Does this mean that very few injuries are actually purely “acute”?

Most being a continued compensation over time leading to a injury based response?

The importance of on going therapy to pre-empt these issues rather than a reactive based system?

The reason why an “acute” injury takes so long to recover from, it’s actually taken far longer to build up and occur than you’ve been aware of.

The better an athlete is, the better they will be at creating compensation patterns in their body, and ultimately the more catastrophic the injury could be when it arrives if left unchecked.

The body is amazing, it can buffer bad diet and poor biomechanics for years before you suddenly develop an “acute” problem. We don’t realise we’re doing something wrong without immediate feedback on the issue, but sometimes you need to know where to look before you can find that feedback.

Why a cheetah doesn’t need to warm-up

Which brings me in round about way as to why a cheetah doesn’t need to warm-up. It’s not the one-off singular action of sprinting that will cause the injury, but the accumulation over time of multiple training sessions compounding poor mechanics with excessive volume on an overly-stressed system. The cheetah is chill for 99% of it’s life (prioritising recovery anyone?) and does the one-off sprint as a biological imperative so doesn’t need to perform a full warm-up and movement screen prior to build-up runs at progressively faster speeds before chasing and killing an antelope with it’s face.

It’s also not trying to get faster, the genetically gifted bugger.